HC Deb 02 November 1998 vol 318 cc542-3
5. Mr. Nigel Waterson (Eastbourne)

What proposals he has to encourage cadet units. [55881]

The Minister for the Armed Forces (Mr. Doug Henderson)

The Government recognise the value of cadet forces to both civilian and military communities. As a further demonstration of our commitment to encouraging cadet units, we intend to make a modest increase in their funding.

Mr. Waterson

Does the Minister share my pride that, this Sunday, many of the Remembrance Sunday services that I and hon. Members will attend will have present not only regular and Territorial Army units but local cadet units? Has he estimated the cost of providing alternative accommodation for cadet units that use TA centres that are to be closed?

Mr. Henderson

I very much share the hon. Gentleman's pride in the way in which our cadet forces attend our various commemoration services, including the commemoration of Armistice day this Sunday. I took great pleasure in attending the Trafalgar day celebrations a couple of weeks ago with them. As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State will announce, a statement will be made to the House on the Territorial Army. It will include mention of the provision made for cadets. The costings on that are not yet finalised, but we gave a commitment in the debate on the strategic defence review that any cadet unit that was displaced would be reallocated to a location at least as good as the one that it left.

Mr. Andrew Mackinlay (Thurrock)

Although I welcome the increase in resources for the cadets, may I raise the case of the redundant minesweepers Kellington, Pagham and Iveston, the last of which is in my constituency in Tilbury dock, and is looked after by the training ship Boxer? I understand that the Ministry of Defence wishes not to renew the leases on the vessels to the cadets but to sell them to the cadets. I urge my hon. Friend to use his good offices to ensure that any sale price is a token one, bearing in mind the invaluable benefit that countless youngsters have received from the opportunity of spending time on the vessels, which would otherwise have to be towed away because they are totally redundant. They are looked after proudly by the naval cadets. I hope that my hon. Friend will use his good offices to ensure that they remain in the stewardship of the cadets.

Mr. Henderson

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for that question. I assure him that the Government greatly value the contribution of those vessels in encouraging cadet units around the country, including his constituency. I am reviewing whether it is possible to continue the existing arrangements or whether we should try to sell them to the cadet forces. I am taking into account all factors, including health and safety, and practicability.

Mr. David Heath (Somerton and Frame)

Will the Minister look at links with the Territorial Army in areas where the TA unit is the only Army presence in a county, as in the case of the Somerset and Cornwall Light Infantry? Will he also look at the increasingly irrelevant and outdated distinction between local cadet forces and the independent schools' combined cadet forces? Do we want such a distinction in the present day armed forces?

Mr. Henderson

I assure the hon. Gentleman that any relocation that takes place because of changes announced in the Territorial Army review will be on the basis that existing cadet units will be placed in accommodation that is at least as good as their present accommodation. That is just as true in the hon. Gentleman's constituency as it is throughout the country.

I want to encourage all cadet units in the three services to maximise their input and to seek to recruit as many young people as they can. That will benefit not only the communities where those young people live but our recruiting plans for the three armed services.